Photograph of Anil Chawla


Author - Anil Chawla

Love is giving while moh is holding and being held. Love gives and lets go, while moh gives with one had and tries to tie up with the other. Love liberates while moh enslaves. Love has no expectations while moh is full of expectations. Love does not possess, moh is based on a sense of possession. Let us learn to love without moh.

Jesus Christ loved his disciples. He rose from the dead, preached for forty days, reached Jerusalem and, as legend has it, left the earth alive by rising up to the sky. Why did Jesus leave his disciples, whom he loved so much, and rise up to the sky?

Krishn loved Radha. Yet, he left her, went away to Mathura and never came back to her. Did he really love her? Why could Radha's love not keep Krishn bound to her?

We do not know much about the life of Jesus. But, we do know many instances in the life of Krishn, when he left his beloved ones with tears in their eyes. Tears never moved Krishn or even Jesus. Both walked on their path of duty without letting any entanglements stand in the way. This sounds strange behavior for the messiahs of love who otherwise removed sufferings by curing sick and physically deformed.

Popular understanding of love is shaped by folklore, literature and, of course, films. Standard story format is -- boy loves girl, both are possessive about each other, two get married against all odds and live happily thereafter. In this format of love the key word is possessiveness, marriage being a certificate or license to possess. Love and possession have become almost synonymous in minds of most people. The accepted logic seems to be that since I love you, I have a right to order you, to bind you as per my will, to use you and even abuse you. Nothing can be more perverted; nothing distorts love more.

Love that possesses is no love. Love is transcending one's self and giving without any thought of getting something in return. When one seeks to possess, one is only seeking to increase one's properties; one is driven by lust for power, for ego, for sex, for self-aggrandizement. One is fond of one's properties but that is not love since one's properties are an extension of one's own self and one gives away nothing when one yearns and cares for one's wealth or assets, whether animate or inanimate. Such a yearning is full of expectations that can never be fulfilled completely. Unfulfilled expectations lead to sorrow, bitterness and anger -- emotions that love should never know.

Love, by definition, must not expect anything - not even love in return. But the one who is loved has a duty to return love with love. It sounds complicated but is very simple. A tree gives away its fruits and asks for nothing in return, but if I take the fruits from a tree, I owe it to the tree to take care and give it water etc. from time to time as needed. As a giver, one must have no expectations and the other, as a recipient, is duty-bound to give back. Each gives what the other needs. Neither expects anything and both create a relation of love.

What if the relationship becomes one-sided -- one gives without expectations but the other does not fulfill the responsibilities cast upon him by love. Surely, such a relationship cannot be sustained due to practical limitations. Life is not a two-person game. Each one of us interacts with a multitude of people from childhood till death and each person, one meets, offers an opportunity to love. There are some who love or have done acts of love towards the person concerned in the past and there are some others who have done nothing of the kind. One is duty bound to love the former. Practically speaking, there is a limit to what anyone can give away. So, it is necessary to prioritize. This is the first and foremost problem that one encounters in formulating the ethics of love.

At each moment of one's life, one has to undertake this exercise of evaluating the love that one has received and give love in return. Collectively, all those who have loved me (or love me) bind me to the extent that I am bound by my sense of duty to them. But I experience love not just from individuals but also from others like my country, my society, mother nature, mother earth, and, if I believe, from God. Surely, I owe duties to all these as well. Each individual is bound by duty to love all these collectives or wholes. It is not unlikely that one will face dilemmas and conflicts among duties.

Arjun faced such a dilemma standing in the battlefield. On one side he could see all his relatives who had given him unconditional love when he was a child. On the other side was the call of duty to the society, to the rules that are necessary for survival of a civil society. Should Arjun have given a higher priority to his personal emotions and avoided the bloodshed of all his loved ones? Krishn advised Arjun to get over his emotions and do his duty.

The word used in Sanskrit and various Indian languages for Arjun's emotions is MOH (I have found no equivalent word in English). Love is giving while moh is holding and being held. Love gives and lets go, while moh gives with one had and tries to tie up with the other. Love liberates while moh enslaves. Love has no expectations while moh is full of expectations. Love does not possess, moh is based on a sense of possession. Love, moh and physical desires, seem to be inextricably linked to each other; but the problem is that they are opposite in nature.

Let us consider an example from a play by Jean Paul Sartre (1905-1980) called, "No Exit" (1944). In Sartre's play, a man and two women find themselves trapped in a hotel room. They have been escorted into the room without knowing how or why they are even in the hotel or what they are supposed to be doing in the room together. Once they are in the room, however, they discover that they cannot get out and that all their efforts to summon help are fruitless. They also discover a rather unpleasant dynamic among themselves. The man is attracted to one of the women, but she happens to be a lesbian and is only attracted to the other woman. The other woman, however, is not a lesbian and is rather attracted to the man -- who, of course, does not find her attractive. Soon they realize that they have died and that this is the afterlife, the wrong kind of afterlife. They are in hell, and the lesson of the play is nicely summed up as, "Hell is other people." (The above story is as quoted in an article on Existentialism by Kelley L. Ross at

Sartre's characters find hell in each other because each of them is engrossed in what he/she wants. Hell is not other people; hell is everyone's obsession with one's own physical desires and one's inability to look at anything beyond. Heaven would surely have been a situation where all of them could move beyond and rise over their desires and strive to make life pleasant for each other, not necessarily sexually but as complete human beings. In such a heaven full of love, each would have cared for the other and would have given one's best without concern for getting anything in return.

Let us take the story a step further. Suppose, three of them do care for each other and a heaven like situation develops in that hotel room. A few days later one of the women is moved from that room and as replacement another woman is sent to that room. The man has no control on this replacement. He loses heart and starts sulking, misbehaving with the new arrival. He had loved the earlier occupant of the room and is heart broken now that she is no longer there. His emotions can be summed up as MOH. His act of giving without expecting had created a heaven in that hotel room. Now, moh will again create hell. To convert that hell into heaven, he needs to get over moh and give love once again.

Life is truly like that fictitious hotel room where people keep coming and leaving. We have no control on arrivals and departures. Love without moh can make life heavenly and divine, while moh can make it hell. On the other hand, blind pursuit of physical desires can surely make it unlivable hell. It is in our hands to either create heaven or hell around ourselves.

The above example was fictitious but one can find many such situations in real life. Triangles in erotic love are very common and form the basis of more than half the films made every year in Bollywood. In a typical case, my friend 'A' loved 'P' who loved 'A' but also loved her parents who wanted her to marry 'B'. She eventually married B. My advice to A was to wish her good luck, treasure the good memories of the relationship, and move on in life.

In the above case, P's parents were very happy, but an opposite situation is often seen. It is painful for parents to see one's children grow up and move on an independent course. In the Indian context a father sees his daughter go away after marriage to her husband's house. Kanyadan or giving away one's daughter is an essential act that anyone with a daughter must perform. It is an act that needs one to get over one's moh for someone whom one had loved from the bottom of one's heart.

Getting over one's moh is essential even when someone very close passes away. Sartre compared life to a hotel room without exit, but it is actually like a train compartment from which people keep boarding and alighting. Everything is in a state of perpetual change. In such a dynamic environment, entanglements of moh can lead to frustration, pain, disillusionment and sorrow. Love without moh is the only way to divine bliss.

Jesus and Krishn, both loved their disciples, but were not bound by moh. The two messiahs of love walked free, gave all that they could and expected nothing in return. Followers and companions of both cried because of moh. The only exception was Radha who gave her love to Krishn and did not seek to bind him with her moh. No wonder, in Indian mythology, Radha is accorded a very high status; she is truly the Goddess of Love. May we all learn to love like Radha -- without MOH!


24 December 2002

The above article is a part of the trilogy on love. Please try the other two articles of the set.


If you like to read about love, please download the author's trilogy of short stories about love, lust and friendship in man-woman relationship.



Download the above three articles and three short stories in printer-friendly pdf format. Beautifully illustrated, the mini-book (33 pages) is an ideal gift for someone you love.

Please write to me your comments about the above article.

ANIL CHAWLA is an engineer by qualification but a philosopher by vocation and a management consultant by profession.

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